April 23, 1994
Scott Simon - Host: If you search the record collection, and by the way, hey, remember records ? I mean back before music was recorded on twinkly, silvery discs that look that the coasters about the Starship Enterprise, but I digress. If you sort through the music collection of many children of the 1960's, you're likely to encounter a well-grooved copy of Boz Scaggs' "Silk Degrees". In the 1970's sea of sappy pop and earnest folk and mono-beat disco, Boz Scaggs was cool. That album was an enormous success in 1976 and included the songs "Harbor Lights", "Lido Shuffle", "We're All Alone" and "Lowdown". Boz Scaggs followed "Silk Degrees" with two other popular albums in the 1970's, then a greatest hits album, then he simply retired from music for awhile. He recorded another album in 1988, but the comeback that was then pronounced did not quite materialize. Another six years absence followed. It ended this month with the release of "Some Change". Boz Scaggs joins us from our New York Bureau. And Mr. Scaggs thanks for being with us.
Boz: Thank you, nice to be here.
Scott Simon: I said you retired, what do you think of it ?
Boz: Oh, that's fair enough I guess. It didn't start out as such. It was meant to be a six-month break from a high-level career and lots of running around. And six months turned into a year and a year turned to two and well time just passed. I just tended to other things in life. I wish I could say that there was something monumental I'd done, but basically I just put me together and raised my two boys. They were one and two years old when I decided to take some time off. And it ended up taking may be moretime than I'd ever anticipated. It's a big job. I'm glad I didn't miss that. I can car pool with the best of them now, I'll tell you that.
Scott Simon: Did you, at any point over the 17 years, lose your love of music ?
Boz: I did. You know, I think that by not treating the muse properly you tend to be in line for what the muse may be able to take away from you. I was doing less music at the peak of my career than I was at any other time since I started becoming involved in it. It was a series of responsibilities, keeping up that big career. I didn't have a song in my head. I didn't like to play my guitar. I didn't play piano. I didn't feel like writing another song. There just wasn't time to do it and it just wasn't there. And in some ways I feel that it was very important for me to step away from it all, to look at it from a little bit of a distance and the music started coming back into my head and I started playing again.
Scott Simon: "Fly Like a Bird" is a wonderful song.
Boz: Well, thank you.
Scott Simon: And I wonder is there a story behind it ?
Boz: Well, there's, it might only be interesting because it, I don't know, it's a clear example of how I write a song. And it surprised me in the way that it turned out to be something that I never intended. I was really just playing my piano and trying to duplicate an old shuffle feel that Fats Domino played on a record long ago and at the end of the day, I went home and listened to the tape and thought this is one of the most intriguing little pieces of music that I've ever done.
Scott Simon: It's got this wonderful, piercing refrain, "Sometimes I cry, sometimes I fly like a bird." I was inevitably reminded, given the musical overtones, that in fact, you were giving into a little bit of Hank Williams.
Boz: You know I don't know where that phrase came from, except that when I was singing the scat vocal without any attempt to come up with anywords, that phrase came out of the mumbling as I was on microphone, sort of la de da de da, and fly like a bird.
Scott Simon: That's amazing. It just sort of tumbled out ?
Boz: They just sort of tumble out. I think a lot of songwriters play on that. Sometimes when you're stuck for a word, or you're stuck for an idea, you just sing along with the music. The music will tell you what the song is about.
Scott Simon: "You take one part Buddha and two parts cat, run them through your computer and that's where he's at."
Boz: A friend of my who writes had me early, early in the process, about the legality of rhyming Buddha and computer and I said it'll go over in New York.
Scott Simon: (Laughter). Do you think your voice, well that's not the best way of putting it. How do you think your voice might sound different over 17 years ?
Boz: Well, I don't know. In general, vocalists can improve. They can become more something with age. Ella Fitzgerald sounds to me today, I love her voice as a young woman, but I love her voice now. You hear it in Tony Bennett or on a given night at a given time, you can hear something in Frank Sinatra's delivery that's special. Vocalists, I think, can grow better with time. I don't know that I have. Perhaps my voice has had a rest. Perhaps the nature of the songs that I'm writing now lend themselves more to what I consider my main instrument, which is my voice.
Scott Simon: One of the things you're encountering as you resume a more active career now is you've got a couple of teenage sons. What do they think of your music and is their opinion important to you ?
Boz: Well, it's funny. It's kind of a cat and mouse game that I think most parents play with their teenagers. On the one hand, they wonder who this dude sitting around the house most of their life is. On the other hand, they're fascinated by the remnants around my house and around my life of this big career that I had and the fact that I've been making this record and appearing on Rolling Stone Magazine, of which they're very much aware these days in the normal pursuit of their teenage activities. So they don't want to let on that they're too damn interested in what I'm about. But then again, I think there's curiosity. They actually, I'm told, out of my presence, seem to be proud of my work and happy with what they hear. So it's an experiment we're both going through.
Scott Simon: Well Mr. Scaggs, it's good to have you back.
Boz: Thank you.
Scott Simon: Speaking to us from our studios in New York City, Boz Scaggs. His new recording is called "Some Change". You know, I've got to ask while I've got the chance. Where did you get the name Boz ?
Boz: It was a nickname given me when I started going to a new school when I was 13 or 14 years old.
Scott Simon: So it's not a show business name ?
Boz: No, really believe me, I didn't choose that one. I didn't pick that one out of the book.